Juni listened patiently as I told her everything I had found out within the last few days. By the time I finished imparting all of my information, her mouth had fallen open and she was staring at me in wonder.
“You’re kidding.” She breathed the words, staring at me like I was an elephant in the room. I nibbled on my fingernails, hoping she would have something to help me figure out what was going on in my life. Instead, she got up, walked over to me where I sat on my bed, and poked my arm. “You don’t feel like a demi god to me.” I burst out laughing, her smile was wide and welcoming. This is why I loved her.
I sighed and looked at her seriously, “You’ve never had any visions about this?” She walked back over to her own bed and sat down, looking thoughtful.
“No, I haven’t. I’m wondering if it is because of Janus, if he is keeping some of the future from me to protect you.”
“He did say something about it not being time yet.” I muttered to myself, thinking back on the conversation I had had with him.
“Maybe he wanted to be the one to tell you.” I shifted on my bed. I didn’t know much about the gods. All I knew was that they could leave a darkness on your soul. They also had the ability to determine everything that would happen in the future. It wasn’t fate, we lived on the playground for the gods. They just moved us like chess pieces, waiting for their plans to fall into place.
“I wonder who is trying to find me.” I grumbled to Juni. She shifted on her bed and looked over at me. Her face serious as she pulled her blanket tighter around herself.
“It might be better to not find out, Echo. You need to be very careful. If this god is truly your father, you need to heed his words and watch your back.”
“I feel like I have a target on my back.” Juni shrugged and stared at me, her eyes went blank, a vision I knew. It lasted only thirty seconds before she was back.
“What did you see, Juni?”
“You.” She paused, “Oddly you were just sitting in class.”
“What an uninformative vision.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. I won’t take any chance with Ethan disappearing.” I sighed and stood up. I walked over to our closet and grabbed a teal hoodie.
Pulling it over my head, I said to Juni, “I think I need to go walk around, my brain is running a million miles.” I pulled on a pair of socks and slid into my low top teal converse.
“Go, go, don’t let me stop you.” She curled her legs up underneath her and waved at me to leave. I smiled at her and waved before walking out of our dorm room. On my way out I felt an odd throbbing in my skull, I winced but continued out of the dorm.
I took a stroll through the wood, it usually seemed to help when I began to feel worried. My feet just took me anywhere as my mind wandered. Leaves crunched under neath my feet, I moved twigs and branches out of the way. Somehow, I found myself to the open field where I had first met Jax. Surprisingly, he was sitting, indian style in the middle of the field talking to a younger boy sitting across from him. The boy looked to be about eight or nine years old.
Jax lifted his hand and tapped the boy on the forehead, he said something I couldn’t hear and tapped the boy again. I creeped closer to the odd pairing.
“You should have a feel for it by now, Jerome.” Jax was saying to the small boy. “You know what I mean. Your other half, he should be sending out a chirp…that’s kind of like an idea from him. You can let him take over but you don’t have to be passive.“ The little boy nodded then seemed to change, power folding out of his body.
Jerome, now in the form of a small wolf, growled low in its throat and swiped his claws out at Jax. Jax caught his paw and smiled at the young shifter before him. His eyes were soft, softer than he had ever looked at me.
“You’re not responsible for this, since you are listening to the sounds he makes. In this form, you are only an observer. However, you can make him listen to you. Reach out to him, Jerome. Feel for his energy, grasp it in your hands and hold on to it tight. Tell him you are in control.“
Jerome’s wolf form shivered and fell apart until the little boy was sitting there once again, panting, tears in his eyes. Jax reached out to the boy and stroked his hair.
“You did a good job today. Let’s try it again next week.” The boy didn’t say anything, just looked up at Jax with adoring eyes. “Now go back to your dorm, I’ll be behind you in a while.” The little boy nodded, smiling and darted through the woods, never even noticing I was there. On the other hand, cat green eyes found mine, a brilliant, predatory smile enveloping Jax’s face.
“Come out, little mouse. I can smell you.” As I took a step out into the open, he tilted his head, examined me and continued to sit on the ground where he was. I made my way over to him, and sat down beside him. The grass was slightly wet with moisture but the sun was shining on us from above and after a while, you could barely notice it anymore.
“I now know what you mean about feeling comfortable here.” I told Jax. The woods almost felt like home when it was quiet. There was this feeling that came from the nature that just made it seem like it welcomed you. Jax looked at me sideways then closed one eye, he leaned back, and laid on the ground, his hands clasped behind his head.
“I know. You come into the woods at least once a day.” I stared at him. How could he have known that? “I can tell where you’ve been in these woods. You have a distinct smell.”
“I smell? How rude.” He closed his other eye, flashing that grin that made my heart flutter.
“No, it’s not like that,” he said to me, the smile on his lips. He opened his eyes as he thought, looking up into the sky, the blue reflecting in his evergreen eyes. “It’s like the smell of your soul. It smells crisp and clean. With the hint of lavender.”
“You smell my soul? Disturbing.” He chuckled, smiling and turned his face towards me. His eyes were bright underneath the trees. They seemed to reflect everything the forest was.
“Your soul smells like fate.” He took a deep breath in, smelling me. He didn’t even blink, just stared at me soundlessly. He was so serious, I felt like I needed to be serious too. I ran my hand over the grass, pulling my fingers up along the long strands.
“What do you mean by fate?” It seemed almost odd to say he could smell fate. What was fate to him anyway?
“To me, being with you now, in this moment, is fate. That is what it smells like.”
“Fate smells like wet grass?”
“It does to me, but everyone is different. I can smell everything. Others can see it, hear it or taste it. Fate is all about the moments that lead up to the final product. Such as this moment and the moment we met. We met in the forest because you entered it, we got acquainted because of that moment.”
“But there is no such thing as fate.” I whispered thinking of all the gods that controlled us. It could not be called fate with the gods pulling our strings.
“Even if you do not think that there is, are you going to end everything or continue to have us be connected?” Jax asked. “It is up to you to decide.”
“No.” Even if I wanted to pull at the strings the gods had attached to me, there was no way to get rid of all of them. I would always have some attached to my soul, telling me where I would go in the future. “That’s not something I can decide.” Jax sat up, and took my hand in his, his hands were rough today, hotter than normal. Neither of us thought it was weird for two boys to be holding hands.
“You can decide whether you walk on a certain road or not.” he told me, “That solely depends on you. That is choosing your fate.”
“You’re crazy.” I informed him. “Nothing is just a bunch of coincidences, it’s all predetermined by the gods. It’s crazy to think otherwise.”
“I’m not crazy as you perceive it.” Jax muttered, “My reality is just different from yours.”
Jax let go of my hand, he backed away slightly. He took the black band that he wore around his wrist off and put it on the ground beside me. His eyes changed to their cat form, his pupils mere slits. He shifted his feet, blazing energy began to escape from him. Rippling darkness, blacker than midnight with highlights of violet coursing through, each tendril of power erupted outward then immediately sucked in towards Jax. There was a grimace on his face, his body changing within several heartbeats. Where a teenage human once stood, in his place was a large, black panther, much like the plush toy that had appeared on my first day here all those weeks ago.
The panther strolled towards me, it’s nose at the height of my chest. Those wide green eyes, watched my every move. The panther sat by my feet, wrapped his tail around himself and tilted his head, so much like Jax did to me all the time, I knew it was him. I watched his panther form, curiosity almost boiling over. I stretched out my hand, Jax sniffed it and licked my palm with his raspy cat tongue.
“Yuck,” I groaned, pulling my hand away and wiping it on my jeans.
Jax chuckled and said, still in his panther form, “Little mouse.”
“You can talk in that form?” Awed by the transformation, my hands stilling within the grass. I stared at him. His fur was the color of midnight, not at black as my father’s panther form but Jax’s had an almost blueish hue to it. His paws were as large as a dinner plate, his tail thick at the base only to slightly taper at the end. His eyes were huge on his face, the green stark against his coat.
“Yes, it is hard, but it becomes easier with time.” He slapped his tail against the ground.
“How are you able to? I thought that all shifters are unable to.” We had learned in one of my classes that there were several different types of animagus transformations. There were those who could only transform different aspects of their senses. Then there were those who could transform only certain body parts. At the top were those who, revered among the animagus, could fully transform, senses, body, until everything was taken over by their other half. We also learned that there were never any shifters who were able to retain all of their human aspects in their separate forms. They could still think like a person but they could not talk in the human language.
“Most are unable to. But I am not most.” His body wrapped up back in himself, the fur disappearing to become slightly tanned skin, the large cat face to become Jax’s familiar face. He reached towards me and grabbed the black band. He fastened it back around his wrist. Running a hand through his tousled brown hair, he sighed, “My father is Nemestrinus, the god of all woods.” I must have looked really stupid with the look that was on my face, because I just stared at him. My brain was throbbing again. How ironic it was to find out that I was a demi god only to meet another one. This indeed was a very strange day.
Jax smiled wistfully, “That is the reason why I can transform and why I am comfortable in the woods. His blood runs through my veins.” His face was a mask of indifference.
“You don’t sound happy about that.” Jax gave a bark of laughter and turned vehement eyes towards me.
“Why would I be happy about a man who threw me aside? Even if he is a god or not, it’s no excuse to throw out blood.” I thought about my real mom, I wished I could meet her to find out why she gave me away when I was three. It’s not like I could ask my father.
“I grew up in the woods,” Jax continued, “From the moment I was born, I was cast away into the forest. Even though I knew nothing, I wanted to learn about my parents. So I often walked alone in that forest. I met my father one day. I never wish to see him again.” His eyes were cold, colder than I had ever seen them.
“I am the same.” I whispered, my eyes meeting his. I thought of my real parents, of my adoptive parents and of Asher and Poppy. “I have secrets I can never tell anyone else; there’s no help for it. It’s because the wounds on this heart will remain eternally unhealed.” Jax looked at me, I felt for the first time really seeing me for who I was. He ran his hand through his hair again and sighed, looking up at the sky that was slowly draining of the bright blue.
“Scars are a mysterious thing. Some will heal and others won’t. The ones that don’t heal have a way of resurfacing when you least expect it.”
I thought how I had always wished for Poppy and Asher to be my real siblings. How my real mother had just abandoned me and about my god of a father. At one point I had wanted to find my real parents when I was a child.
I find that you may wish for something at a certain moment, but in the future you crawl up from the mud mixed with fears and expectations. It’s never what you thought it would be. It ends up being far more complicated and all your fears come true. Or it ends up being less and you wish that you had never thought of finding the truth in the first place.
Trying to find out the truth in life is like a carousel in a dream. What rings throughout the heart is sweet, but a bitter melody of love and hate. Round and round you go. Never stopping. Feelings that are directed at you may never be found. It’s like your heart is calling out each time you go around, calling for your most sincere wish to try to find the truth. Like a secret whisper resounding within the sound of the world, ‘Quickly come find me.’